The Grid: The Grid: Episode 42 – How To Tell If You Suck At Photography


The Grid is a live talk-show about photography, Photoshop and other industry-related topics. Each week features a different guest (in-studio or online) and viewers are encouraged to chime in on the Liveblog here on or via Twitter by adding #TheGridLive to their tweets.
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Episode Summary

Kalebra Kelby joins Scott and RC in the studio to discuss, "How to tell if you suck at photography." Plus, there is talk of the Nikon D800. FYI – Scott's going with "filter on."

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  1. Nina says:

    It was generally a good show; however, you easily could have been presented in less than half the time. You really didn’t get into the topic until the last 20 minutes.

  2. Sandy Personette says:

    I just listened to this show, so I know this comment is very late. I enjoy your shows so much, but I hope you realize that not everyone is striving to become a professional. Some are trying to learn photography for fun. My photos probably suck, but I’m having fun learning and taking photos. Also, I take photos of my cat all the time.

  3. David Thorpe says:

    Hey guys, great show as always. I don’t know if anybody mentioned this, but with the black shirt Scott is wearing, and the way the microphone is positioned, there’s a white circle on the end of the mic facing the camera. The rest of the mic blends in with his black shirt, so you just see the white circle in that happens to appear in the middle of Scott’s collar. He looked like a Catholic priest through this whole thing. Just wanted to mention that. Peace be with you.

  4. Keane Chan says:

    Hey guys…

    This is a really great episode. Great work….

    This has put a few things in perspective ( no pun intended).


  5. Tim Banres says:

    I think any learning experience is a journey, not a destination. In the beginning, everyone sucks at whatever they are doing. The people in life that don’t suck are the ones who always strive to improve, keep at it, try new things, and aren’t obsessed with being patted on the shoulder.

    One book I really like that addresses this issue is: “Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment”. I highly recommend it.

    I’m guessing that even Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix sucked the first time they picked up a guitar, but they didn’t let that stop them.

  6. DrillerAA says:

    Sorry guys but the sound is about 30 seconds out of sync. It’s just impossible to watch. Tried to view it three times to no avail.

  7. Gerardo Palermo says:

    Great topic. I’m not even at the point of having my portfolio reviewed… I don’t even have a portfolio… but it was great help…and very scary at the same time. I want to hear the cold truth but it would really hurt to hear “You suck at this” when you love it so much.

  8. CARL AYLMAN says:

    Wish I could afford a D800. I have Joe’s previous books and I look forward to getting “Sketching the light.” Good Show.

  9. Inspired to get a review – thanks

  10. I hear a lot about Nikon, Cannon and Sony. Then comes the Hasselblad and other medium format cameras. Last year I attended a David Ziser event and now I am on the Sigma email list. How come I don’t hear anything about the Sigma Cameras?

  11. Louise says:

    You got me thinking… Am I a good photographer? Well, I’m getting better and better, thanks to you guys :-)

  12. Well …when searching for a professional portfolio review, are there any online places to look at and how do you tell if they are “credible”?

  13. Derrald says:

    What an enjoyable duplicitous show, first talking about gear and how we all know that it’s the photographer that makes the image and moving into that very image being the one that sucks regardless of gear. Excellent.

    Scott, if you every decide to do portfolio reviews in an online format or via email or web conference, let me know, I would probably be one of the first to line up. I’ve done reviews with other professionals that I respected only to have the “Keep doing it, you’re going great!” stuff. I want the *real* critique, what I need to do to move the next level. I want the bad, the ugly and the real ugly so to speak.

    So, please email me if you decide to do a *real* portfolio review, you’d have one of your first clients with me.

  14. Julia Monroe says:

    Great episode! I will definitely follow your advice and seek a critique. I know I suck but want to be told why.

  15. Rick Williams says:

    I dont know what has happened. when I try to watch any of the shows on your website it refreshes the screen and never loads. On photoshop TV I can click load new show it opens a new window and about half hour later it starts playing. I miss watching your shows. Please help

  16. Eric Saar says:

    As an Adjunct Professor part time, I see students all the time that are taking my Photoshop class, or one of my several other classes I teach, and they don’t have what it takes to make it in the real world. I find my self thinking, I have to give them some thing positive, and not some thing eye opening bad. A lot of times I get students that think, “Hey I can use a computer and I love it!, so I should be a Graphic Designer or Web Designer” I try to be nice and tell them to enroll in a few art classes or try to become more creative.

    You are so correct, if you are going to get any better, you need to learn what you should do to get better.

  17. Kenny Walters says:

    I would love that book!

  18. kevin Waldron says:

    One of the advantages of the D800 is the 36MP plus the wealth of lenses available to people who were previously shooting at 12-15MP.

    How is the average photographers stockpile of medium format lenses? The D800 is a great fit for a lot of photographers who have already invested in Nikon lenses.

  19. David Kelly says:

    I always remember a former boss saying it was a good skill to deliver feedback in the form of a sh*t sandwich – put the good bits or strengths that you can give feedback on, either side of the not so good bits or weaknesses, which is the bit nobody particularly likes.

    Of course the problems sometimes is finding the good bits to give feedback on, but that’s another skill….

  20. Bill Truran says:

    Big chip on this shoulder…
    I decided back in college that the only critique I would accept on my images would be a big fat check from a client. Calling me for the next job makes me feel even better. As a photo professor critique my students during the class but don’t allow peer critique since it’s usually fairly useless.

  21. Barbara says:

    This episode kind of sucked! Too much idle chatter. Too bad Kalebra didn’t get more of chance for some input. She even had to bring up the fact that she is a pilot. Come on Scott, you dropped the ball, you could have led some of the conversation her way. Having said that, your thoughts on being truthful were a wake up call, and good to know you love the 800D, I am seriously considering purchasing. Still love your guys!

  22. Wow! scott and his wife are like good buddies they are so much fun to watch.

  23. Rich Garcia says:

    Scott it was great seeing my first episode of The Grid. I don’t do much internet training due to the lack of high speed internet where I live but found the video quite good even via a Cell Phone Modem connection. Great to see how NAPP and Kelby Training has expanded. I was a big fan back around 2001 and even attended some of the Tampa Conventions when I lived in West Palm Beach. Back into photography again and came right back home to NAPP and Kelby Training as soon as I started shooting agian.

  24. Rich Stopa says:

    The truth always hurts but it can make you improve.
    I like books books books

  25. Jock Goodman says:

    Great topic and as usual, one that can HELP us be better photographers. In a critique, I want to know WHAT EXACTLY is wrong and what is GOOD and WHY. Otherwise, I don’t LEARN. Don’t just say “it just doesn’t work for me.”
    If contests are open for re-play viewers, all I could use is a book. thanks, Jock
    I’m saving for PSW if it is in Vegas NEXT year. I should have enough miles for a RT ticket, that is about half of the cost. I live in the middle of the Pacific ocean and it’s a long and costly paddle to the mainland.

  26. DaniLew says:

    Hey Kalebra, it’s another Saturday night and I’ve got on my big girl shoes again with a glass of red wine and I’ve just finished watching The Grid Live with you as a guest. Excellent show. It was so good that I might actually sign up for a portfolio review at PSW DC next month to see if I really suck as a photographer.

  27. Lewis Johnston says:

    Awesome show with a thought provoking topic.

    The creation of a photographic portfolio sounds like a great idea for one of your next books.

    Speaking of books, the new Joe McNally book would be a nice prize to win. Are you still choosing winners from the offline comments as well as the live comments?

  28. john Chappell says:

    your correct I suck so please send me on of scotts new book

  29. John Richardson says:

    Another great episode!

  30. Johnny Dao says:

    Great show!

    I live here in Kuwait. So it’s a bit hard to go to Photoshop World to get my portfolio review by a pro. Any other ideas to get a review while being overseas? If I could, I would go to Photoshop World every year.

  31. +Scott Kelby I am not even close to qualified to say whether or not a photograph is truly excellent. But i think this would sound good coming out of someone else’s mouth, “The reason it’s sometimes hard to critique a bad photographer; is the fact that you can’t just tell them to look at other peoples work and make sure theirs looks similar, they will copy and not create. A photographer can NOT be real with his or her self if they honestly don’t even know what to look for. It is imperative to have the basics of composition carved into your brain, and that takes time for 94.63777% of photographers. It also doesn’t hurt to tell them they need to fully understand ISO, shutter speed, and exposure, as well as have a knowledge of how aperture affects DOF. Only then can they start being honest with themselves about vision”.

  32. Gab Labelle says:

    If you take the responsabilty to position yourself as a teacher or trainer towards them you must have an ‘educational’ response to this.

    Imagine you’re a school teacher and one the kid suck at school you can’t just give up on him. You have the responsability to help him progress somehow.

    You have to find the “solution” and be able to communicate it. At least try. 😉

  33. Andrew L says:

    What a fun show …. Kenneth Karecke is awesome, loved seeing his photos. If I can suck as good as him I’d be a happy shooter.

  34. Chuck Sider says:

    Another good one . . .

  35. Shawn Highfill says:

    I think your stock answer to a horrible portfolio should be
    “Here is a 6 month membership to Kelby training. Watch EVERYTHING, TWICE. PLEASE! ”
    It could be your trademark. People who follow you or come to workshops would just know what that meant.

  36. glen thaxton says:

    Not winning the Photoshop pass would definitely SUCK!

  37. Sherry says:

    How do you think the Fuji X-Pro 1 with Leica glass would compare with the Nikon D 800e.

  38. Hubert says:

    Another enjoyable show. Some good food for thought.

  39. Gene Kimball says:

    Personally, I know I suck. However, telling someone they suck is not necessarily the best way to encourage them to approach shooting differently. Even the word suck has a strong negative connotation. If you want somebody to improve, you do not tell that person that they suck, you tell them what they did wrong and how it could be improved. This is common sense. If a photographer thinks of himself/herself so highly that they think most people suck, then they should not be in the teaching arena. Enough said.

  40. Salman J Shaf says:

    Great episode – love the different perspective. But then who are you to decide whose pictures are good and which ones are not? I do understand if you are looking at the whole portforlio and say its just bad! But then what you may not like could be deemed ‘okay’ by Joe or Corey. I think its politeness that makes people say good things – and I am no pro. So what looks good to me just comes from a ‘commoner’ without any artistic background. So it goes to whats in the eye of the beholder. And yes, I post pictures on Google+ and I never hear any critique back…hhmmmm :-)

  41. Flo R says:

    Nice episode as always. The subject was very interesting. If you want good comments of your photos, post them on flickr!

    BTW what is Scott’s watch? An Ipod nano?

  42. Nice show!

    36 MPixel … too much for my computer … JUST BECAUSE OF THAT (and because I shoot Canon) I’m not gonna buy it … for now :-)

    Flickr for hugs!

    Totally agree with the massification of the compliment, as RC commented. Personally I don’t “Like/+1” things anywhere. If I do like it, for real, I’ll make a comment. If it’s not worth a comment, than I don’t really like it!

    On the sharing. Unfortunately once you put something to the public (FB, G+ …) you’ll receive all kinds of comments.

    On the telling someone they suck (as a professional, reviewing a portfolio). You have to be honest, but be honest on a positive way, give the person a path to improve, not just crush them.

    No more give always for the re-broadcast??? Joe’s book would be great to have it :-)

  43. martin gillette says:

    a couple things:

    Kalebra says she posts pictures for the story. i think her friends know that and are commenting on or liking the story, not the photo. i think that’s very often the case for likes or comments on photos.

    btw…a copy of Joe’s book would be great 😉

  44. Jesper Mathiesen says:

    Love the show…. :-)

  45. Ivan Nicolau says:

    I would love to win the Photoshop world pass please. My wife will thank you for getting me out of the house.

    Scott. I agree that I would rather have a thousand positive comments too. I deal with the frustration that no one in my FB friend list ever responds to anything I post. I feel that it’s pointless to post anything to friends unless they have a mutual interest in what you are sharing. I could write a whole blog on my frustrations with sharing in a social space. Maybe I will.

  46. Craig Stevens says:

    I suck, but my friends re inflate my ego (what little I have). Is Photoshop World going to be back in Vegas later this year? I could get beat down there I guess.
    Hey, one of theme there Joe McNally books might help me suck a little less, AND it would look good next to the other books of his on my shelf. Should I actually READ them? :-)

    Great show guys.

  47. John Swarce says:

    Time to start culling the photos from the portfolio. Well, just the sucky ones….

    Seriously though, great show. It really made me think about the photos that I’ve taken and the comments I’ve received.

    Always interesting topics on The Grid and having Kalebra on is refreshing. She always has a different perspective on the subject being discussed and she’s much better to look at than that Matt guy. Just kidding, Matt!


  48. Bryant Gibbons says:

    Kalebra; is way too cool and in control.

  49. Chris Stape says:

    Great show.

    I agree with Scott that you need to be up front when you have someone critique you, asking them to be brutally honest with you, and also throw in there that you really want some follow up as well…. “Where do I go from here…”

  50. Nathan Kohlman says:

    I find that the internet gave everyone a voice and they use it with out thought.

    There are so many times where people with jump on you for your opinion or content you post and say you suck or your great.

    Why do I suck? Why am I great? Or more specifically – What is it about my photo that you like or dislike? That is what I want to know.

    I know that if I comment on a photo I tell the person exactly what I like or do not like and always follow it with …. ” but that is just my opinion and how I would have done it if I were shooting that shot”

  51. Katie Weirens says:

    Is it sad that I can’t go a week without watching you guys? I’m addicted! Do they make a patch for that?.. hmm. Thanks again guys, love what you do and who you are!


  52. Jazmin says:

    Just wondering if you have seen the photographs where art dealers are buying photos for millions of dollars? They suck IMHO but somehow the speculative art market has added monetary value. I think like any other product in the market, the value is created, artificial and yes, sometimes they suck. No doubt many people are passionate about photography but they will never sale a photo because they don’t know how to market their work. This all reminds me of Vincent Willem van Gogh and how he never sold a single painting until many years after his death. Something to think about…

  53. alex says:

    You should do a part of a show on how great Photoshop Elements!

  54. Thomas Piepszak says:

    The truth may hurt but it is still the truth-

    do them and yourself a favor — truth with encouragement

  55. Luke says:

    hahahha great way to drop the news to your wife about ordering a D800, she was so accepting 😀

  56. Andy says:

    Good Show. Maybe if Google+ had a -1 button next to the +1 button then everyone would get better feedback on their pictures.

  57. Bill Araujo says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I didn’t realize that there are several options for portfolio reviews. I know that it may hurt a bit but I really do want some honest opinions from pro and not just family & friends. You guys really do ROCK!

  58. DAVID ROSAS says:

    never enough time.

  59. Ed Moxley says:

    99% of the time, I suck. Once in awhile I’ll get a decent shot though.

    You never said anything about a prize going to someone here, but I’d love to have Joe McNally’s new book.

    Have a good one. Don’t suck too much! :)

  60. james says:

    great show guys! 😛 keep it up!

  61. Charles says:

    Nice to finally see your wife. Great guest.
    I’d love to win a ticket for your Phoenix tour!

  62. Jeffery Schafer says:

    Love the show. I am going to get a portfolio review

  63. Skip Wolff says:

    I guess I suck, but I am going to get better at not sucking.

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